The Landmark Lofts mixed-use residential and retail development at the corner of Cemetery Road and Franklin Street could expand in size after an adjacent property owner tentatively agreed to a rezoning.

The Landmark Lofts mixed-use residential and retail development at the corner of Cemetery Road and Franklin Street could expand in size after an adjacent property owner tentatively agreed to a rezoning.

Glen Dugger, an attorney representing the developer, Buckeye KRG, announced at the Aug. 26 Hilliard City Council meeting that Sunbelt Rentals, at the northwest corner of the Cemetery Road and Franklin Street intersection, had signed a letter of intent to become part of the proposed development.

Meanwhile, Buckeye KRG is seeking to finalize a deal that would allow a portion of tax revenue the parcel generates -- about $2 million, according to Hilliard Economic Development Director David Meeks -- to be used for site improvements.

Meeks said about $850,000 will be used to make the ground floors of the new buildings commercial grade. He said Buckeye KRG can use as much as $1,171,330 to renovate the inoperable grain elevator on the site.

Legislation amending the current "parcel" tax-increment financing district to create an "urban development" TIF was introduced earlier this summer before City Council's recess.

The legislation appeared to have sufficient support from City Council members Aug. 26, although Vice President Kelly McGivern said she was not yet prepared to support it.

The TIF amendment legislation and an ordinance rearranging the parcels to include three in the new urban development TIF received a second reading at a public hearing Aug. 26.

Both are scheduled for a third and final reading by City Council Sept. 9.

A TIF is an economic-development mechanism available to local governments to finance public infrastructure improvements and, in certain circumstances, residential rehabilitation, according to the Ohio Department of Development.

A TIF locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting the incremental revenue to designated uses, such as funding the necessary improvements or infrastructure to support a new development.

An urban development TIF typically is used as an incentive for residential rehabilitation. A common criticism of an urban development TIF is that it diverts public tax revenue to support private development.

Dan Bloch, a Norwich Street resident who is part of a group of neighbors opposed to many parts of the development, criticized the proposal along those lines.

Bloch challenged the administration for an example of a public benefit that would result from amending the parcel TIF to create an urban development TIF.

"Why are you giving the developer more money when there is no additional benefit to the public ... what is (the public) getting in return for making this new deal?" Bloch asked.

If approved, the urban development TIF would be Hilliard's second. Last year, such a TIF was used when Premium Beverage relocated from Edgewyn Avenue into a building on Lacon Road that had been virtually destroyed by arson on Memorial Day weekend in 2009.

City officials previously have said the inoperable grain elevator on the Landmark Lofts site qualifies as blight, and it will be a benefit to the public when it becomes a community center.

"We have taken great pains to ensure that the developer is reimbursed only for the unique, site-specific costs for the improvements needed to make this is a viable project," Councilman Nathan Painter said.

The community center will house amenities for Landmark Lofts residents, but Buckeye KRG is required to include public restrooms and a meeting room for public use, Meeks said.

Addition of Sunbelt Rentals property

Dugger said the urban development TIF is required to make the vision of Landmark Lofts a reality.

That vision now includes the new parcel to be added to the 5.81-acre site.

A rezoning application to make the Sunbelt Rentals property part of the TIF district could be introduced at the Oct. 10 meeting of the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission.

If rezoned, Sunbelt Rentals would remain part of the original parcel TIF that Council members passed late last year.

The inoperable grain elevator, the Starliner Diner restaurant and a third undeveloped parcel would be moved to the urban development TIF.

Other changes also were vetted Aug. 26 as Painter, who is chairman of the Economic and Entrepreneurial Development Committee, announced the maximum allowable amount of property-tax revenue to be redirected to infrastructure work and site improvements will be lowered from $4.5 million to $4.3 million.

Expectations for the development

As proposed, Landmark Lofts includes 170 apartments, as well as retail stores, restaurants and the refurbishment of the grain elevator into a 7,000-square-foot community center.

Several Hilliard officials and business leaders have supported Landmark Lofts because they believe it will generate more visitors to the nearby Old Hilliard district.

Bill LaFayette, owner of Regionomics, told City Council members Aug. 26 about the expected spending habits of Landmark Lofts tenants, but cautioned the lack of actual tenants meant the figures are estimates.

LaFayette said he believed the tenants at Landmark Lofts would have combined annual discretionary spending of about $2 million, and recommended city officials persuade new residents to visit Old Hilliard as soon as they could.

"Once spending patterns are set, it is hard to change them," he said.

LaFayette estimated about 22 jobs would be created with a combined annual income of $600,000 to service the additional customers.

The city contracted with Regionomics for $2,000 to provide the study.

"We think it was worth the investment," Painter said. "We needed to know the value of the project."

Painter said Landmark Lofts would provide the means to further revitalize the Old Hilliard district.

City Council action

City Council members voted Aug. 26 on one piece of legislation in connection with the development.

A requirement of an urban development TIF is for the entity providing the TIF to be in the "title chain" of the affected parcel, Law Director Tracy Bradford said.

As such, City Council voted 6-1 to accept conveyance of the land, with McGivern dissenting.

City officials plan to relinquish ownership back to original owner, regardless of any other factors.

Despite the requirement, McGivern said Aug. 26 she was not yet prepared to support an urban development TIF.

"I still have concerns about it," said McGivern, adding she has not made a final decision.